Category Archives: spiritual growth

Finding security in a world of turmoil?

‘This is what the Lord says: “See, I will stir up the spirit of a destroyer against Babylon and the people of Leb Kamai’. (Jeremiah 51v1).
As with so much of scripture, it is easy to misunderstand  what is being said because of what has happened before it. (Read the whole of the chapter by clicking here.
How the people understood God’s proclamation that He was somehow going to stir up a ‘spirit’ to destroy Babylon is anyone’s guess. What we do know is that like so many  empires before it, the mighty Babylonians will fall. Personally, I don’t subscribe to the idea that God would stir up a destroyer to do this as I believe the Divine is ultimately good and not inclined to evil – that said, it is not too hard to understand how empires rise and fall, seemingly in an instant, as their fire burns bright until extinguished by another. However, as the people of Israel (and we ourselves) are slow to learn, the ultimate peace and security of this world, comes only from the peace and presence of God living within us.

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Resting on God’s Promises?

‘…like cattle that go down to the plain, they were given rest by the Spirit of the Lord. This is how you guided your people to make for yourself a glorious name.’ (Isaiah 63v14)

As with all scriptures, context is everything and Isaiah 63v14 can be found by clicking here. Isaiah reminds the people of the travails faced as they left Egypt and the exodus that followed. A period in which the generation who had been slaves in Egypt had left in the hope of seeing the Promised Land yet failed to enter it – even though their children would  inherit the promise. Until then, there is a period of waiting, a time of endeavour and, on occasions, resting on the plain. And though God’s Spirit directs them, they still question:

‘Why, Lord, do you make us wander from your ways
    and harden our hearts so we do not revere you?’ (v17)

How sad that we humans can so easily wander from God and not revere the Creator of all things. And yet, God knows are weakness and how we will fall and fail him – and still He loves us.


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The Lord will call you back.

“The Lord will call you back as if you were a wife deserted and distressed in spirit— a wife who married young, only to be rejected,” says your God.’ (Isaiah 54v6).

As always, much of scripture is filled with symbolism and this passage is full of it. The people of God are likened to a wife who has abandoned her husband in her search for wealth and security. In terms of the metaphor, she is the manifestation of God’s people who are immature and young, abandoning what they know for another (god) who they hope will bring about a change in her fortunes – but the wife (God’s people), are rejected a second time by other nations making her fate complete. In her mind, she reasons that she can’t return to former not her current provider who has abandoned her – so what is left to do?The answer that is in front of her is the obvious one – she must repent and return to the One who truly loves. The God who is ready to forgive and restore if only s/he will return. And those with a keen memory with recount the parable of the prodigal son who rebels, leaves home with his share of the money only to return destitute in the hope that his father will take him on as a slave. So imagine his surprise when the father races out to greet and welcome him into the home, not as a servant but as family. So too, God’s delight and promise for the people of Israel who have rebelled and walked away from God yet are willing to change and turn back for home in an instant.


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Seeking help in all the wrong places?

‘But the Egyptians are mere mortals and not God; their horses are flesh and not spirit. When the Lord stretches out his hand, those who help will stumble, those who are helped will fall; all will perish together.’ (Isaiah 31v3)

It is hard to understand this verse without context – by that I mean the circumstances into which the prophet Isaiah speaks his words. In v1 Isaiah speaks these words to  the king and people of Israel:

‘Woe to those who go down to Egypt for help, who rely on horses, who trust in the multitude of their chariots and in the great strength of their horsemen, but do not look to the Holy One of Israel, or seek help from the LORD.’ (Isaiah 31v1 NIV)

As the people of God, Israel had been singled out to reveal to the nations around them the benefits of God’s  blessings and protection – the idea was to be an example by which other nations would see the benefits and choose to follow their God also. However, Israel’s dalliance with other nations and their religious  practices- also known as syncretism – had left them alienated from their own God. Which in turn now made them fearful of the nations around them and the possibility of being invaded.

Now, while the sensible solution for Israel would have been to repent and seek forgiveness, the king and the people decide to go it alone and form an alliance with Egypt. Hence why in verse 3  God reminds Israel that while the Egyptians may have lots of chariots, they are  made of flesh and unable to save them.  In short, those who rely upon and fight with the Egyptians will inevitably perish with them.  So what does this passage have to say about our lives today – put simply, sometimes when a problem is too large for us to handle,  we do well to  throw ourselves onto God for his help and mercy. Human intellect and strength is useful but it is not always the solution. For as Psalm 51v9 informs us, ‘the sacrifice of God (is) a broken spirit; (and) a broken and contrite heart, God… will not despise.’

 


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The how’s and why’s of God’s Spirit of judgement and fire?

‘… he will cleanse the bloodstains from Jerusalem by a spirit of judgment and a spirit of fire.’ (Isaiah 4v4)

It is easy in this verse to misunderstand what is being said by the prophet. The reference to a spirit of judgement and a spirit of fire seems to suggest that multiple spirits are in operation – each with their own particular function. And yes, our New Testament understanding is that there is One God and One Spirit so how are we to understand this?

For me, this passage speaks of the future way in which God will operate in the world – a time that was heralded at the first Pentecost in which the visitors from many nations came to Jerusalem are were cut to the heart by Peter’s words (Act 2) as he tells them the way to God is through Jesus Christ who was crucified by one and all who fail to believe his message. ‘What must we do?’ comes the collective reply of the visitors who are mortified and experiencing judgement as the spirit touches them. ‘ Repent and be baptised,’ replies  Peter as God’s Holy Spirit, like a fire descends on the visitors, who then go back to their communities taking the message of God. In short, in this instance – One Spirit- two functions: to help people recognise their need for forgiveness and (once achieved) to physically, mentally and spiritually receive God into their lives as the Holy Spirit indwells them as Counseller, Guide and Enabler (to name but a few). Be blessed and know God’s Spirit lives within

 


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The benefit of Christ in us?

“I will no longer hide my face from them, for I will pour out my Spirit on the people of Israel, declares the Sovereign Lord.”

Hot on the heels of the last post, Ezekiel is future telling what exactly will happen for everyone – God’s Spirit will enable the people to come close to God. Unlike the person before who when physically meeting with a king is required to keep their head bowed out of fear that their unworthiness of being in such a position will affect them –  the Holy Spirit within each of us  now facilitates a sense of peace and acceptance that we are in a relationship with God in which we will not be rejected because Christ lives in each  – and God will not reject those in whom He lives!


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Why you shouldn’t wait to be taught about spiritual gifts…

A few years ago, I taught a lovely group of people from a local church about primary and formational gifts. What was great was seeing their eyes light up as they discovered the different ways God had equipped them to be pastors, evangelists, prophets, teachers, preachers, servers etc. During the debrief afterwards, only a couple said they knew their primary spiritual gift prior to attending – the vast majority had no idea what their unique  spiritual gift was, which got me thinking….

Is it the case that there is not enough teaching on spiritual gifts within the church?

Now, although many churches extol the importance of spiritual gifts, few prioritise it in their teaching schedules. One reason for this I believe is a presumption by leaders that the flock will somehow discover their spiritual gifts for themselves. Aside from the reality that this is an unlikely outcome it also highlights the worrying reality of how not all church leaders are aware of the importance of exercising spiritual gifts – basic and supernatural.

There are many reasons why this happens. Sometimes, the minister may not understand the subject well enough themselves and avoids teaching about primary and supernatural gifts. Other times, the emphasis might solely focus on a reliance of  ‘supernatural gifting’  (tongues, prophesy, interpretation, etc) at the expense of basic spiritual gifts.

All of which means,  every christian has a responsibility to research and discover their spiritual gifts for themselves. When hungry, we don’t wait  for someone to feed us. Likewise, we shouldn’t wait for a minister to do it for us. Indeed, it could be the minister’s primary gift s not as a teacher which means  you may have to provide that particular sermon series. Okay, if you don’t know your primary spiritual gift and the others that accompany it, then take the free spiritual gift test now by clicking the link below. www.primarygift.co.uk 

All the best!


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Do you know how God has spiritually equipped you to build the Church?

There are many reasons why Christians  may fail to discern their spiritual gifts within their churches. In the series starting today we will consider six reasons. The first of these being:

‘a pervading culture of volunteerism.’

It’s no surprise that many church leaders when faced with gaping holes in church minstry areas often resort to taking matters in their own hands. For some, this might result in a plea from the front of church seeking  people to help with youth work. Or to assist with creche. Or to be part of a social action group or children’s ministry.  Naturally, it makes perfect sense to ask people to help out where no one presently exists  to run it. However, useful as volunteers are as a temporary fix to an ongoing problem, they are never the complete answer as that will always involves someone with a God-given passion for the ministry and the accompanying spiritual gift that will drive and sustain it in the long term.

What usually happens when servant-hearted people  help out with a spiritual ministry outside of their own passion and calling is that they find themselves ill-equipped for what they have been asked to do. While there is nothing wrong with helping out in the short-term, problems occur when ‘temporary’ ends up replacing ‘long term.’

While volunteerism is always a short-term fix for churches, the wise minister audits his or her congregation to elicit each person’s passion and the primary spiritual gifts they possess – maybe as teacher? Or preacher? Or pastor? Or evangelist? etc.  Only as leaders move to this type of forward planning will the need for volunteers be replaced  by a congregation where each person knows their God-given passion and equipping that is ready-made for that particular vacant ministry within the church. Be blessed!

ps If you don’t know which one of the eleven spiritual gifts is your primary spiritual gift – that is, the one you should occupy a large percentage of your ministry time – why not  take the test to find out. https://www.primarygift.co.uk/take-spiritual-gift-test/

Be blessed!

ps You will need to be connected to printer to download materials and descriptors.


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‘Lamp of the Lord or God speaking through another?

‘The human spirit is the lamp of the Lord that sheds light on one’s inmost being.’            (Proverbs 20v27)
Interestingly, a footnote to v27  renders this verse in a way that reads:
‘A person’s words are the spirit of the Lord that sheds light on one’s inmost being’
For me, both translations make sense as it is about God’s intervention with wayward human behaviour.  In short, it’s about change and spiritual growth. Change that may occur directly as God convicts the person of selfish behaviour and wrongdoing but also through others who speak at His behest to  that person where they are unreceptive to change.
Whatever approach God takes, it is His to initiate and the motivation is always clear as the Divine is about transformation! God transforms all who are open to His Holy Spirit’s prompting. Why?  So that our inmost being – the communication centre by which we commune with God – will function in ways that keep us attuned spiritually (but also physically, mentally and emotionally) but also make us good news in the world to those around us. Be blessed.

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The ‘how to’ on growing God’s kingdom?

‘The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few.’ (Matthew 9v37)
Okay, having dealt with the binary understanding of how a person either knows or doesn’t know their spiritual gift, we turn our attention to a fourth response people sometimes give as a reason for not deving deeper into investigating their spiritual gifts- that being:

 ‘I already know my spiritual gift’ (note: singular).

Now while it is true that God gives all believers one ‘stand out’ spiritual gift – often referred to as a ‘primary gift’ – which should be used most of the time, there is potential to possess a Continue reading The ‘how to’ on growing God’s kingdom?


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